On the night of November 9-10, 1938, Ruth Gasten of Livermore was only five years old when gangs of SS Storm Troupers smashed windows and buildings of Jewish families in the tiny German village of Nieder-Ohmenand and left fear and destruction in their wake.
"My parents and I walked to the small synagogue in the morning and saw the desecrated Torah scroll and remnants of burned prayer books covered with broken glass and scattered on the street," Gasten remembers. "I felt my parents' fear and shock. What was going to happen to us now?"
On April 27, Gasten will be the featured speaker at the annual Yom HaShoah event (Holocaust Remembrance Day), to be held at Congregation Beth Emek in Pleasanton.
This year marks the 75th anniversary of the pogrom carried out against Jews across Germany and Austria known as Kristallnacht ("Crystal Night," or "Night of Broken Glass"), a turning point in Jewish history, according to Rabbi Larry Milder of Beth Emek.
"Kristallnacht represents the last of a long history of pogroms against European Jews, and the first act of organized violence against Jews perpetrated by the Nazis," he added.
Other survivors of the Holocaust and children of survivors will participate in the ceremonies. The event will also feature a sanctuary with images from Kristallnacht, displays of survivors, and a Holocaust timeline to which participants will be able to add personal information.
The focus of the program, however, will be honoring the memory of those whose lives were lost or shattered on Kristallnacht.
The last shreds of normalcy of Jewish life in Nazi Germany came to an abrupt end that night with a series of state-sanctioned and coordinated riots and massacres against Jews. The pogrom was instigated by Nazi officials and carried out by the Nazi Storm Troopers, Hitler Youth and civilians.
At least 91 Jews were killed and 30,000 Jewish men were sent to concentration camps. As many as 7,500 Jewish businesses were destroyed and more than 1,000 synagogues were burned. Within a week after Kristallnacht, the Nazis barred Jewish businesses from reopening and Jewish children from attending school.
The events of Kristallnacht are considered a crucial turning points in Nazi policies to eliminate Jews from German life, and ultimately in the attempt to annihilate European Jews altogether as part of Hitler's Final Solution.
The Yom HaShoah ceremonies will take place at 6 p.m. on Sunday, April 27, at Congregation Beth Emek, 3400 Nevada Court in Pleasanton. The event is free and open to the public.
For more information, visit http://www.bethemek.org/